Marvel has also dug its long fingers into network television, pushing shows like the Clark Gregg-led Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the ill-fated Agent Carter, and the upcoming Inhumans series. The fifth season of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs in January 2018 while Inhumans is set to premiere on September 22 of this year, giving ABC plenty to promote as the summer sets in. After a rocky first season, the former moved forward with stronger scripts and plenty of welcome twists and turns, but season 4 suffered from low ratings and a disheartening lack of interest from fans and critics. Agent Carter, meanwhile, ran for 18 episodes before being canceled in May 2016 due to abysmal ratings. Given the plummeting ratings of both shows, it’s not far-fetched to venture that Inhumans will peak early and then experience a steep drop-off that’ll eventually kill it off.
Conversely, with the exception of Iron Fist, the Netflix shows have enjoyed acclaim that the ABC shows could only dream of receiving. Daredevil scored big with fans while Jessica Jones seemed to be a favorite among critics; Luke Cage and Iron Fist polarized fans, but still managed to attract impressive numbers of people. However, the decline in quality on Netflix’s part cannot and should not be ignored. While solid overall, many of the shows start off incredibly strong before struggling to wrap up plot threads fittingly. If August’s The Defenders fails, then it’s clear that Marvel and Netflix need to wake up and start paying attention.
The comic front isn’t any different. Perhaps the most shocking shake-up in Marvel’s illustrious history, the Nick Spencer-penned Secret Empire fights hard to show how bold the publisher has become. It succeeds, but not in a satisfactory way. Making a closeted Hydra agent out of one of the most important Marvel characters to ever grace the page isn’t impressive, even if it does mean an occasional uptick in sales. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Marvel’s sales numbers are plummeting while DC is experiencing enormous success.
“For years, Marvel has essentially dined out on using controversy to boost sales—whether by turning Steve Rogers into an agent of Hydra, giving Jane Foster the power of Thor, or pitting the X-Men and the Inhumans against one another in a year-long arc. That approach has worked for a long time, but there are signs the wind is changing,” writes Tom Bacon of MoviePilot. Bacon argues that while he personally enjoys Marvel’s politically charged stories, he recognizes that satisfaction has soured among most fans. The worst part? He’s correct.